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North Hempstead tackles threat from monofilament fishing line

Mallory Nathan, chief bay constable for North Hempstead,

Mallory Nathan, chief bay constable for North Hempstead, on Nov. 23, 2015 in Port Washington shows the kind of fishing line that should be discarded in the town's new receptacles, such as the one behind him. The line has become a water hazard and a danger to marine life. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The sight of scrunched-up fishing line on a dock might be a sure sign a fisherman was there, but the threat of injury looms for turtles and other sea creatures that get stuck in the discarded line.

Officials in North Hempstead, a town home to dozens of waterways on the North Shore, are encouraging the disposal of monofilament, a thin fiber used on fishing rods and often left behind on docks, piers, beaches and floating in water. The coastal wildlife that live in or use the bays, harbors and ponds often become entangled in or choked by the lines.

Mallory Nathan, the town’s chief bay constable, built seven receptacles for fishermen to dispose of used fishing line. They are made of PVC piping and mounted vertically to poles near the waters. Signs added at coastal sites, such as Manhasset Bay and Hempstead Harbor, ask fishermen to dispose of the monofilament in the new receptacles.

“We love fishing, it’s a great, healthy sport, but not everybody cleans up after themselves,” Nathan said.

Fears for marine life

Local officials say they are worried about Diamondback terrapins and the rare visitors like the beluga and humpback whales spotted in local waters in recent years.

Cities and towns across the United States have added similar receptacles to their parks and beaches. Wildlife advocates estimate that the lines, or the fish hooks attached to them, have maimed or killed thousands of birds and other animals each year.

Nathan said the issue is timely as manufacturers design stronger fishing lines. Braided and fluorocarbon lines are also clear.

Eric Swenson, executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, said animals “may not see it and get tangled in it.” Lines can also become caught in the propellers of small boats.

History of problems

Five years ago, an osprey chick was found tangled in monofilament that had been used as nesting material in Hempstead Harbor, Swenson said. In the summer of 2014, a seagull became ensnared in stray monofilament and landed on a light pole. Nathan likened the trapped seagull to a “kite trying to escape,” and the Port Washington Fire Department was called in to rescue the bird.

The North Hempstead signs explain the disposal procedures through pictures so they can be understood by non-English-speakers.

Other towns on Long Island are regulating monofilament as awareness grows about the ways in which it can harm wildlife. Officials in Hempstead Town started an effort in 2011 to encourage more recycling of the monofilament. The town now maintains 10 receptacles, and New York City has them in parks across the city.

The added receptacles come as officials work to revitalize the beaches and ponds near Manhasset Bay and Hempstead Harbor, as well as a fishing pier damaged by superstorm Sandy.

Meanwhile, the town has secured federal funds to remove sand from waterways. “As the quality of water in our bays continues to improve, we’re seeing more wildlife returning to our area,” North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. “We want to make sure we’re doing what we can.”


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